Misplaced Military Priorities

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IRG member Andrew Exum writes:

‘I have another op-ed in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free making the case for an Obama Administration from the perspective of the counter-insurgent. I give a special shout-out to Comrade Ucko.’

Extract:

The past seven years have been a painful learning experience for the US army and Marine Corps. After decades spent pretending we would never again fight a protracted counter-insurgency campaign along the lines of the Vietnam war, the US military has found itself in two such conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan with no clear end to either in sight.

The intellectual response to Iraq and Afghanistan, however, has been impressive. Stung by ineffective or counter-productive tactics and strategy that cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of innocent civilian lives in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military went back to the drawing board to produce a new counter-insurgency doctrine that places the security and welfare of the population at the centre of the mission rather than the destruction of the enemy. Has a military ever before enlisted Human Rights Watch to help it create doctrine? Surely not. The US military, then, deserves praise for its humility and impressive learning curve.

America’s civilian leadership, unfortunately, has not been as intellectually flexible as its uniformed officer corps. In Congress and the department of defence, elected representatives and bureaucrats continue to push the development and acquisition of expensive weapons systems despite the fact the US military is currently fighting two very low-tech wars in which cultural education and language training are more important than the latest fighter jets and artillery systems. Secretary of defence Robert Gates recently expressed exasperation that so much of his budget was being eaten up by the F-22, a state-of-the-art fighter-interceptor that has yet to fly a single mission in the two taxing wars in which the US military finds itself. Surely we need 30,000 more Marines more than we need the F-22.

Read the rest of Andrew’s piece here. Read David Ucko’s related paper, Innovation or Inertia: The U.S. Military and the Learning of Counterinsurgency, here.

Update: Check out David Betz’s comments on Andrew’s piece here at the Kings of War blog.

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